When it’s time to separate from your parents on a more permanent basis – not simply separation anxiety when dropped off at preschool for the first time or moving into a dorm or moving away for college which is a big step, but when it is time to MOVE OUT and MOVE ON…I posit that there HAS to be a rift created between mother and daughter, mother and son, parent and child. Without it, my theory predicts that parents can get stuck in the parenting rut and their children continue to rely on them for help and assistance long after independence should have clicked on, now playfully called ‘adulting’, a new word created by this generation that just stands for ‘being an adult’ which is an old word and an old concept that doesn’t need new shoes. If the failure to launch doesn’t happen cleanly and swiftly and at the right time, resentment may breed even as the bond between the two tightens.
Do I know whereof I speak? Eh. Maybe.
I was kicked out of the house the summer of my 18th year, after high school graduation. I had been given an ultimatum not to hang out with my friends anymore because my mom thought I was doing drugs (I was) and I defiantly left the house against her mandate one night. When I later walked in the door, she was waiting for me (in the dark like a lifetime movie skit) and after a full face slap, told me I had to move. One week later, I paid Dad $60 to drive me to Tennessee to move in with my sister. It was “a wrenching”…an unequivocal end to the parent/dependent cycle.
Even then, I realized that some of my behavior contributed to our breaking point. I griped about the contents of my school lunch which she fixed every morning – so one day when she was fed up, she deadpanned, “make your own lunch from now on.” As much as then tried to backtrack or ‘walk back my words’, it was done. She had reached the end of that rope. I had to get up earlier, make my lunch or go without (or in reality, bum enough money to buy lunch).
It must be a pretty common stage, as I remember my teenage years and now as a parent whose children expect to be served quietly. “Take me to the mall, but don’t hangout with me.” “Make my food, but don’t expect me to make yours.” “Live around me. Pay for me. But do it yourself.”
Maybe it’s our duty to help our children make that clean break, not to ease or wean them into full adulthood. While we can only hope that the resulting rift doesn’t end up so wide that no bridge is ever built to rejoin it. With my own mother, it took about 30 years in all and a concerted effort on my part (and probably hers) to staunch old wounds without reopening any. My own personal battle wasn’t so much that I wanted her to support me financially or do my personal bidding, but that I didn’t want to be demeaned in everything I attempted. Infrequent contact meant I wasn’t being questioned or insulted or demanded.
What additionally has changed, is that children can be considered dependents until age 26, according to the government! Twenty-six!
Add to that the ridiculous cost of living on a entry-level stagnant wage and it’s no wonder they (and we) are prone to continue long past our parent-dependent expiration date.
I remember struggling – paying rent fees for being late, skipping one bill to pay another, eating baloney sandwiches over and over and over. It’s the struggling and sacrifice that taught me to prioritize food over cigarettes, sleep over late-night partying, buying groceries or buying clothes.
Is it a disservice to cheat them out of the same hard choices? If one is never given the opportunity to make mistakes, how does one learn from them?
As someone currently experiencing this struggle I think it is important to consider the kind of economic changes (mainly absurd costs of living and the increasing requirements for entry level jobs) that have happened since you were of that age. We are the products of our financial environment and we are in a moment when it is not quite so easy to be “kicked out”. Availability of familial resources that allowed a certain level of freedom and comfort as you vacillated between your new state of independence and what was known to you (moving in with your older sister) was something unavailable to me. As a young adult it is difficult to return home after living on your own in spurts during the semester and being expected to essentially become “the child” again. It is not so much a case of losing that parent – child relationship, but altering it. When that doesn’t happen it becomes a power struggle and can leave some starved for the self-autonomy they had, but is now displaced. Or can be displaced.
Right now a lot of us (I’m speculating) are in a free fall and are getting used to things later than you did and are being criticized for it because they’re 21 instead of 17. Of course there is an expiration date to these things but just because it’s later doesn’t mean it’s gone bad.
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